Although the U.S. military has been trying to build a stronger Facebook presence in recent months, new concerns about information security within the Defense Department are causing the armed forces to seriously considering banning Facebook, Twitter and most forms of social networking across the board. The U.S. Strategic Command is concerned that these forms of communication pose a huge security risk to the government’s unclassified NIPRNet network.
In true military tradition, the Marines were the first ones in, implementing a complete ban on social networking on Monday. However, reports say that the Pentagon’s Social Media Czar, Price Floyd, is still moving ahead with making the military more accessible through more open communication across networks like Facebook.
The proposal may allow for certain units, like those in public relations or recruiting, to continue using “dirty computers” that are connected to the public internet, but not the military networks. All others would be without access to any social networking sites. The Marine Corps ban has a section that covers potential exceptions, as long as access is gained through computers “that are configured in accordance with DISA security technical implementation guides,” so this will probably become the new norm across other armed services.
Floyd is currently still planning to move forward with his initiative, which include blogging and a new Department of Defense web site, set to launch this month, that will feature links to Facebook and Twitter, amongst others.
While the ban only affects the Marines at this point, some sources feel that it’s an inevitability throughout all of the Defense Department and armed services given the open nature of social communication tools. One Strategic Command source told Wired that “they’re just too big of a headache.” Floyd feels that there must be some middle ground that can be reached to ensure security and still tap into the marketing and information available through social networks.
“[Internet] security is important,” Floyd said. “Opsec [operational security] is paramount. We will have procedures in place to deal with that. The DoD is, in that sense, no different than any big company in America. What we can’t do is let security concerns trump doing business. We have to do business… We need to be everywhere men and women in uniform are and the public is. If that’s MySpace and YouTube, that’s where we need to be, too.”
An all-out ban would be a shame, given the amount of time and effort the U.S. Army has put into beefing up its social web presence, going so far as to order bases to open access to sites like Facebook and Twitter less than 2 months ago. Services like Facebook are excellent ways to connect loved ones with soldiers overseas or on remote bases across the country. They’re also an incredible tool for recruiting, but there’s no indication that the Defense Department would stop using social networking for this purpose.